Insulation 101: Those Crazy Greeks!

To truly understand insulation, we must first understand heat transfer. They go together like Math and Physics, Edith and Archie or even Mike and Ike. They’re correlated is what we are saying. One doesn’t exist without the other.

The history of heat transfer started in Greece. In simpler times. Pre-Newtonian law times. When Physics and Philosophy often crossed paths and people spent a lot of time asking…why? Those absolutely brilliant Greeks were thinking hard, and we know that sustained, laborious thinking is the hardest kind of effort known to man. Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Socrates…these folks cared about asking the right questions and getting the right answers. However, none of these curious men are the main hero of this story.

No Siree Bob! Our hero is an intellectual maven that drops pearls of wisdom that can easily be dissected to lead the way for names of entire course curriculums at any ivy league and we think that it’s about time that the building and insulation industry pays more than a little tribute to this great chap. His name was Heraclitus.

Ah Heraclitus, the weeping philosopher. It’s about time somebody made a movie on his life. The only movie we ever came across was a 1967 Bob Hope piece, starring Leslie Nielsen!

Everybody loves Leslie


Talkin’ bout’ change Before everybody else

We’re just saying that maybe he at least deserves a PBS special that’s all. Talk about a who’s who of that time, here’s a guy that influenced the likes of Archimedes and hobnobbed with the likes of Democritus (ahem, the father of modern science and the original formulator of the atomic theory of the universe), he’d sure get a reality show if he was alive today. Well maybe not, but he should be thought of whenever we think about a building and the science behind heating, cooling and insulating it and here is exactly why:

“Everything flows” – Heraclitus

WHY THIS APPLIES TO US: This breaks down the phenomenon of heat transfer in the sense that the air in your home is always flowing from inside the home to the outside of the home and vice versa. Imagine that for a second. You open the door as you get home from work, on a cold winter’s day, and that warm air rushes out and surrounds you by the garage door. Or, when you open the window in your chilly air conditioned bedroom, when it feels way too cold in the middle of the night in July, and the humid air rushes right in. Everything flows. Heat is always flowing.

No man ever steps into the same river twice. For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”

– Heraclitus

WHY THIS APPLIES TO US: Well, first of all it’s just really cool. What an absolutely remarkable statement! Deeply insightful, especially around 450 BC. Scientific observation at its best. Lead to numerous developments in fluid mechanics eventually and of course, turned Archimedes into a real star too.
Now, if you think about how when you get home from work, in our previously stated example, and all the air molecules that have flowed out and in, then we understand that the river is actually different and the home is different now and needs to be treated as such. So think of it this way, you have never stepped into the same home twice. The entire volume of air is now completely different.

The only thing that is Constant is Change”

– Heraclitus

WHY THIS APPLIES TO US: Of course it does relate to the previous statements and the theme of constant flowing but it will apply in Insulation 104 as we talk about the material science behind insulation and help with the selection of the correct insulation type for our homes.

The main point to be extrapolated from Heraclitus to Insulation 101 is that everything is always changing and flowing. The air from your home is always flowing in and out and vice versa. That’s the starting point to keep in mind when you think about questions like, what kind of insulation is best for my home or is closed cell spray foam insulation better for my basement walls or open cell spray foam?

These are the things to absolutely remember everytime you consider HVAC or insulation, siding, roofing etc. solutions for the home. Kind of dramatic but it’ll do the job. Remember Ol’ Heraclitus every time you have someone call you for an insulation estimate and feel the real power of knowledge. First physics principles vs just the “my uncle has been a contractor for 30 years and he says we need spray foam” conclusion. All the research for the right type of insulation for your home starts with Heraclitus and his philosophy that everything flows and changes.

The air keeps flowing inside out and vice versa. Always changing.

INSULATION 101: Cliff’s notes: Everything is always flowing and changing. The air from your home is flowing in and out all the time and thus its changing.